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Europe’s Silicon Valley Doesn’t Exist

November 22, 2019, 2:13 PM UTC

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The mood in Europe is gloomy, and it has nothing to do with Brexit (or the dreary weather). Over and over at the Fortune Global Forum, which concluded earlier this week in Paris, Europeans lamented their continent’s lagging performance in the digital economy. Globally dominant tech behemoths hail almost exclusively from the United States and China, much to the chagrin of Europe’s policymakers and business champions.

“We missed the boat,” said Prince Constantijn van Oranje, a member of the Dutch royal family and a proponent of Europe’s technology community, speaking on a panel about Europe’s “Silicon Valley,” which doesn’t exist. Europe has the smarts and the wealth and the market to be a tech leader. As Constantijn pointed out, the continent was a leader in GSM, yesteryear’s mobile-phone standard. What it needs now is a more vibrant entrepreneurial and venture-capital culture.

Instead, Europe has innovation in a less-than-helpful area for entrepreneurs: regulation. A trio of European regulators disagreed with the assertion, but there’s no escaping the fact that Europe is pioneering data protection with its landmark GDPR requirements even as it lags in digitalization. (And under the expanded powers of the European Union’s top digital regulator, Margrethe Vestager, the continent is about to double down on the former.)  Said Constantijn: “We shouldn’t put ourselves on the back foot too quickly on GDPR. We should have much more flexible regulation.”

Regions with less mature regulatory regimes might make for better investments. Andre Maciel, a Brazilian managing partner in Softbank’s $5 billion Latin American fund, says he is focused on Brazil and Mexico, two markets with tech-savvy young consumers and better-than-average growth opportunities. And lightly regulated labor markets.

Adam Lashinsky

Twitter: @adamlashinsky


This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman.


tesla's new electric truck

You never know when or where it's ever gonna strike. It's kind of bizarre and boxy-looking, but Tesla unveiled its futuristic new electric pickup truck last night. Dubbed the Cybertruck, the vehicle will go on sale in late 2021 or 2022 with a range of 250 to 500 miles priced from $40,000 to $70,000. Top tech YouTuber Marques Brownlee got a short test drive and posted his first impressions video. "There's so much to take in and it's all so unconventional," he says. "Seems like people either really like it or really hate it." And don't miss the "shatterproof" window demo!

Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy. Monday could be the end of Uber service in London. That's the deadline for the city's transit authority to grant the troubled ride-sharing startup a new long-term license. In other news about troubled startups, WeWork laid off 2,400 employees this week, almost 20% of its workforce.

A loophole big enough for a mack truck. Although Chinese telecom giant Huawei is legally barred from doing business with most American companies, the Trump administration has been granting waivers. Microsoft said on Thursday it was permitted to export mass market software to Huawei.

Walk of shame. Speaking of waivers, we know Apple needs to appease the Trump administration to get waivers for tariffs on goods made in China, but CEO Tim Cook may have gone too far. Apple's boss is drawing widespread criticism for standing silently by while President Trump took credit for opening a new Apple factory–one that has been in operation since 2013. Oh, and the plant isn't owned or run by Apple, but by one of its contractors, Flex.

That buzzing in your ear. Can anyone catch Apple in the race for wearable hearables? It seems like every tech company wants to sell connected earbuds, but Apple is topping them all, with projected sales of 60 million AirPods (including all models) in 2019, Bloomberg reports. Meanwhile, Microsoft had to delay the release of its Surface Earbuds until next spring, missing the all-important holiday shopping season this year.

A hug is always the right size. Way back on Wednesday, PayPal agreed to pay $4 billion for Honey, which develops browser add-ins to help consumers find discounts. It's a steep price, even with Honey's 17 million users and revenue approaching $200 million this year.


Analyzing big data is one of business's defining themes, but some may be stretching their metaphors and analogies too far. Alec Stapp, research fellow at the International Center for Law & Economics in Portland, Oregon, objects to one of the most over-used metaphors: data is the new oil. In "Why Data is Not the New Oil," Stapp lays out his many reasons. He also has a better analogy:

People who analogize data to oil or gold may merely be trying to convey that data is as valuable in the 21st century as those commodities were in the 20th century (though, as argued, a dubious proposition). If the comparison stopped there, it would be relatively harmless. But there is a real risk that policymakers might take the analogy literally and regulate data in the same way they regulate commodities...A better—though imperfect—analogy, as author Bernard Marr suggests, would be renewable energy. The sources of renewable energy are all around us—solar, wind, hydroelectric—and there is more available than we could ever use. We just need the right incentives and technology to capture it. The same is true for data. We leave our digital fingerprints everywhere—we just need to dust for them.


A few long reads that I came across this week:

Why My Friend Became a Grocery Store on Instagram (Wired)
Instagram has helped blur the lines between personal branding and personal life—such as by encouraging people to turn their profiles into businesses.

Robocall Scams Exist Because They Work—One Woman’s Story Shows How (Wall Street Journal)
A caller impersonating an FBI agent persuaded Nina Belis to drain close to $340,000 from her bank accounts

My years working on black programs (The Space Review)
"Hello, my name is Robert E. Andrews and I had the good fortune of working in the aerospace business from its early stage in the ’50s through the end of the century."

The Unparalleled Genius of John von Neumann (Medium)
It is indeed supremely difficult to effectively refute the claim that John von Neumann is likely the most intelligent person who has ever lived.


Apple Argues to Congress It Isn’t Anti-Competitive. Antitrust Experts, However, Aren’t So Certain By Don Reisinger

‘People Don’t Know What’s True and What’s Not.’ Obama Worries That Tech Has Led Society Astray By Danielle Abril

No Safety Switch: How Lax Oversight of Electronic Health Records Puts Patients at Risk By Fred Schulte and Erika Fry

Tesla Could Deliver ‘Full Self-Driving’ Within Weeks. Here’s What That Means for Drivers—and Tesla’s Stock By David Z. Morris

LinkedIn Removed 60 Million Spam Posts in the First Half of 2019—3.94 Billion Fewer Than Facebook By Danielle Abril

China’s Private Equity Champion on Winning With the Chinese Consumer By Shawn Tully

Employees’ Values Today Signal a Workplace Paradigm Shift By Fortune Editors


There are all kinds of billionaires, from tech founders like Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos to top investors like Warren Buffett and Jim Simons. But Copart founder Willis Johnson cracked Bloomberg's billionaire's list this year thanks to the rising value of his chain of...junkyards. Seems like more people are interested in buying wrecked cars and car parts than ever. Johnson bought his first junkyard in 1972 for $75,000 and was an early convert to selling online, opening a web site in 1998. It's been a lucrative way to turn trash into cash.

Aaron Pressman

On Twitter: @ampressman


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